A PRESCRIPTION OF HEALTH FOR THE SOUL
What if you had a remedy that would lighten your depression, lessen your anxiety, and improve your overall disposition? People would be eager to have that treatment. The Apostle Paul provides such a prescription in his letter to the Thessalonians,
Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Paul lists three present tense commands to shift our focus from our current situation to God. The present tense verbs imply a continuous practice. The first command Paul gives is to rejoice at all times. It’s easy to rejoice when life is going well, but it’s much more difficult when you’re facing challenges. What is your typical response when you’re facing difficulties?
We must realize that it’s not simply the problem that may cause us distress, but it’s our interpretation of the situation. We must give up our expectations that events should happen as we desire; however, if we accept events as they actually happen, then we find it can be easier to accept the situation.
The next imperative Paul lists is to pray without ceasing. This does not mean sequestering yourself away as a monk, but it is the idea of always being ready to talk with God in prayer. No matter where you are or what you’re doing, you have the opportunity to call out to God. Prayer enables us to commune with God and align our will with His will.
Finally, we are commanded to give thanks in all circumstances. Many of the New Testament passages on gratitude are imperatives, meaning that we are to give thanks regardless of our feelings – it’s an act of the will. Paul is not prescribing how we must feel, but he is calling us to choose to rejoice and thank God on the basis of what is true and the feelings will follow. The opposite of giving thanks is ungratefulness as we start complaining and creating conflict. Paul encourages us to be an example of light to those around us,
Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world – Philippians 2:14-15
I am learning that my default response to any situation should be “Thank you.” If we believe that God is sovereign, then we realize that He chooses what we go through and we choose how we go through it. It’s not always easy to give thanks, but gratitude is one of our best antidotes against a critical spirit. C. H. Spurgeon taught us, “The heart must be alive with gracious gratitude, or the leaf cannot long be green with living holiness.”
Regardless of your circumstances, you can choose to rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in everything!